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Starfish

December 17, 2012

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By: Liza Drennon, Corps Member Proudly Serving on the Entergy team at Samuel J. Green Charter School

*Names have been changed for privacy*

Thirty first graders, ranging from six to eight years old, arrived at school on August 6th. Some tall, some petite, some with no hair, and some with so much they couldn’t see. They all seemed so excited, some even jumped in their seats as each new student walked in. Most of the students knew each other from Mrs. Treudo’s kindergarten class last year, and some were brand new to Samuel J. Green, but all were welcomed with open arms and friendly conversations of the summer and what they were excited about doing this year. Then there was Rob, with an over-sized sweater and messy braids that hung around his face.  His braids were all I could see, for his head was down and his hands were wrapped tightly around his face so that no one could possibly get through to him. Every time I walked past his table I would lightly tap his shoulder and ask for him to sit up and join the rest of the class, but he just glared up at me, and then quickly put his head back down. Through the first few weeks Rob slowly came out of his shell, but I still noticed that he had trouble sitting still, socializing with others, and staying focused with the rest of the class.

Rob’s behavior soon started to spiral out of control – my teacher and I had no idea what to do with this small child who seemed like he physically and mentally could not follow directions. Every time I attempted conversation, instead of him looking at me and listening he spun around in circles and would often growl in response of anything I had to say. After about a month, Rob declared that he has the “sillies,” or small, imaginary bugs under his skin that don’t let him sit still. This odd statement helped me learn what he needed to become successful.  I realized that others had maybe given up on him because of how frustrating he can be in a classroom.  They never took the time to see that if you give this boy something to do that lets him move, he glows. As soon as I changed my tone with him, he started changing his reactions to me. Though he couldn’t sit still on the carpet with the rest of the children, he could run faster than any child I have ever seen, and he could sit down for hours and draw beautiful, colorful pictures. One day I insisted that Rob sit down with me and learn to write in the book that each child was required to at the beginning of every day. He frowned when I told him it was not for drawing, and said “but Ms. Liza, I don’t know how to write nothin’.” I picked up his pencil and wrote the sentence, then told him to trace it. His eyes lit up when he found out the simplicity of what I was asking.

“I did it right?”

“Of course you did, you have always known how to do this, you just need to try.”

The rest of the day was again filled with crawling under tables, twisting students arms, and trying to bite ankles. But the next morning, as I was preparing for the day at my desk, Rob walks into the room, grabs his little yellow book, then asks in a very quiet voice, “Ms. Liza, is this what we are suppose to do?” From then on, every morning Rob came and sat at my desk without a sound and waited until I was ready to help him. The growth was small, but him trying to learn was a milestone.

Rob still jumps around the classroom, colors on his desk, and throws papers when frustrated. But now he knows what letter to write down when you tell it to him, he knows most of the sounds in the alphabet, and can finally spell his last name by himself.

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